A day of budget travels

Trip Start Jun 01, 2010
Trip End Mar 11, 2011

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Flag of Turkey  ,
Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Why did we wake up to early, should it not be a vacation? We have to catch the Blue Express flight from Rome to Istanbul. Blue Express is a budget carrier like Easyjet operating from Italy. So we have no expectations whatsoever. We read up and saw that they have a ridiculous luggage limit of only fifteen kilograms. So we had to balance our suitcases and fill one bag of clothes as carry on. The taxi driver balanced two cellphones whilst driving like an Italian suicidal maniac, so we were glad to survive the ride. When I paid him the 50 Euros for the ride I told him to buy himself a headset for his phone, but I don't think he understood me.

As we knew one of our suitcases was about 5 kilo overweight we expected to pay a little luggage fee. And so it was, the guy behind the counter was friendly and shaved off a couple of kilo, so we only had to pay for 3 kilos, but for this I had to go to the ticket office as they could not process payment at the check in counter. Anyhow with the administration worked out, we headed to the gate.

We found that we forgot to buy a fridge magnet for our stay in Italy. Something we do for every country that we visit, so that once we get a house somewhere, with a fridge, we can decorate it with memories of our travels. We ended up buying the most expensive spaghetti in our trip, a 6 Euro magnet of a tiny bag of spaghetti.

The airline does not have seat assignments, so you have to wrestle the crowds for a good seat. We won as we managed to claim front row. In the end the whole flight ended up being better than many American Airlines experiences, and a lot cheaper too.

After a short 2 hour flight we landed at Istanbul (SAW) airport. This airport is in the Asian side of Istanbul, so we cheated a bit and ended up visiting Asia ahead of schedule. At the passport control it turned out that for my European passport I needed a Visa. No more than a 15 Euro stamp that I had to get at another desk, but can you imagine that we in Holland charge every Turk 15 Euro when they enter the country? This would solve a great deal of the budget problems the government has, maybe an idea for our funny haired lunatic politician, Mr Wilders. Of course, Linda did not need anything with her Chinese passport. I think I will apply for Chinese citizenship. With my cool Turkish Visa stamp we passed immigration and found ourselves a ride to town. A taxi would cost another 50 Euros, but we found a 'guy' that offered a ride on a minibus for only 10. But you get what you pay for, no AC and a rattling Mercedes bus. It took about an hour to get to Sultanhamed, the old town of Constantinople, the city that is now called Istanbul. The bus dropped us off at our family operated Hotel for the coming days, the Sirkeci Konk. We were welcomed by the reservations manager, probably the daughter of the owner. Over a cup of Turkish tea we checked in as she explained the city and the Hotel.

We set up camp in our room, connect our computers to the free Wifi and unpack the toothbrushes. After that we head out into the madness of Istanbul. We arrived the day before the end of ramadan. And at the end of ramadan, there is a 4 day public holiday, so the famous Grand Bazaar would be closed, If we wanted to visit it, today would be our only chance. So we did, and headed out. Soon we found that the maps were useless, and street signs were occasional found. We ended up in a sort of bazaar, but it was not too 'Grand'. Later we learned that this was the spice market. We had a kebab at a local store where an American Turkish visitor told us how to get to the 'Grand Bazaar'. He warned us about the pick-pockets there. Watching our belongings like hawks we headed into the masses of people. A bit like Tokyo during the Emperor's Birthday. As we headed inside the building it was less crowded, so we felt a bit more at ease. It was getting late and shops were closing around us, so we headed back to the hotel, which again was quite a puzzle to find. At the Hotel I had a conference call with a client before we headed out to dinner. The package with the Hotel includes a welcome dinner at their fish restaurant. So we sat down and enjoyed some nice grilled fish. The waiter frequently hopped across the street to check the score on the basketball game. Turkey is hosting the world championships, and they made it to the semi finals today. After out dinner we headed back to the room, relaxed and enjoyed the evening, tomorrow we will explore Istanbul by daylight.

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